Into the Magic Shop by Dr. James Doty, founder and director of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), captivates from the first page and continues at an unrelenting pace through Doty’s life, beginning with a disadvantaged childhood to his current work as a leader in the field of compassion training. The book opens with a searing description of brain surgery he conducted on a 4-year-old, intense not because of any tired trope about blood and gore but in how it stands as a practice of the heart. This is Doty several years away from the pivotal point in his life: a 12-year-old discovering from a loving presence the mind’s ability to transform itself.
Resilience is defined as the successful adaptation to adversity. It is also considered the outcome of a successful adaptation to adversity. Bouncing back that leads to healthier end states and the ability to continue forward through adversity marks a healthy individual. Our biological, genetic, psychological, and social environment puts us at risk for various illnesses or injury. Moving from risk to resilience means we recover from what is thrown at us. Researcher Masten calls it “ordinary magic.” It doesn’t mean we don’t suffer from the consequences of the event; it does mean we gain from the experience of it. Following recovery, we increase future recoveries by sustaining our quality of life, nurturing our capacity to meet adversity, and balance positive and negative emotional states.
We differ in our ability to dig deep under duress. It helps to build up our capacity to recover and sustain that recovery. Here are some resilience resources we should consider cultivating:
Regular physical exercise
Positive emotional resources
Optimism/hope/sense of competence
Improved cognitive functioning/ learning & memory skills
Community relationships: family, friends, colleagues
Close social ties
Green space and involvement in activities outdoors
Satisfying work life
List adapted from Alex Zautra et al., Resilience: A New Definition of Health for People and Communities in the Handbook of Adult Resilience, eds. Reich, Zautra, & Hall, 2010: Guilford Press
With the increasing sunshine and warmth, let’s get out there and practice!